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I have voluntarily spent the past
several days in a dark place. Darkness is the only emotion that feels
appropriate at the moment.
I keep telling myself I need to
stop reading and watching about the horrors at the Sandy Hook Elementary School
in Newtown, Conn. But then I step away from the computer or the TV news and
feel guilty, as if I owe it to the parents and relatives of those poor teachers
and first-graders to hear about the stories of their last few breaths — every
minute detail — and their lives and their families and their funerals.
I keep thinking about those
parents who found out their children didn’t survive. How they must have fallen to
the floor, wailing and moaning and screaming. With each of their cries, I
project: How would I have reacted if my children had been at that school? If
they were among the survivors? The victims? How would my daughters have fared
in a locked closet or bathroom or cabinet? Would they have stayed silent or
wept loudly or tried to escape? What if they had seen their teacher being
murdered or their classmates? How do you recover from that?
I keep trying not to imagine it
all — the last thoughts of those poor souls, of the parents of the victims, of
the very young survivors who witnessed what no one ever should, but especially
not those so young. And ultimately, all I can see is darkness and all I can
feel is numb and nauseous.
And then on Monday morning, I
picked up the phone. I called the head of the building where my older daughter
goes to preschool. It’s a relatively small building, although it has roughly 40
doors — all of which are unlocked during daylight hours. Within hours I was
sitting in a meeting with two police officers and the directors of all the
childcare programs in the building. And a few hours after that, it became
official: All of those doors would be locked during the day. And within a few
months they will have installed panic buttons inside each classroom that are
wired directly to the police station. The main office will have a way of
alerting each classroom in the event of a lockdown. Classroom doors will be
locked from the hallway, with teachers having a hands-free, digital way to
unlock their doors as they come in and out.
The murderer in Newtown shot his
way into a locked school, but I keep wondering if hearing the commotion in the
office over the PA system gave some of those teachers a few extra minutes of
warning to secure their students however they did. And it’s those thoughts that
lead to the change at my daughter’s preschool yesterday.
My advice is this: Sign a
petition. Sign all of them. Call your state representatives. Demand change.
Boycott people and businesses and organizations who refuse to budge on the
issue of gun control. Refuse anything less than the best possible care at
little to no cost for everyone suffering from mental illness. March on
But maybe also think about what
you can do to help ensure your own child’s safety today. Right now. At school.
At home. On the playground. Whether it’s some kind of protection from strangers
brandishing weapons or checking to make sure your kid’s bicycle helmet still
fits properly or that your child’s car seat is installed according to the
manufacturer’s specifications — do what you can. Danger comes in all forms, and
most of us, quite fortunately, have the benefit today of knowing our children
are still here for us to make a difference, no matter how big or small.
We can’t prepare for everything.
We can’t anticipate a lot. We can’t live our lives worrying about the things we
can’t control. But we can do our best to ensure that what is in our control is
as safe as it can be.
It’s still dark in my world today,
but I slept a little better last night and see a tiny beacon of light today
knowing that measures have been implemented to make sure my daughter and her
classmates are just a little more secure today than they were on Friday.
At this point, that’s about all I
can ask for, and as dark as it still is, at least I can look at, touch and kiss
my daughters’ faces when I need a little light.